Many factors go into designing a piece of jewelry—the shape, the style, and the size all affect the final look and feel of each piece you create. Because such thought goes into every detail of the design, it’s important to also consider another important part of the process: materials and manufacturing.
There are many different ways and many different techniques to create jewelry. At Riva Precision, our product development team are experts in taking your sketch or your idea and turning it into a model that’s ready for manufacturing. But before you kick off the creation of your designs, you should think through one major piece of the puzzle: the metal.
The metal you use and the technique you choose won’t change the overall look of your design, but it will have an impact in other areas. Things like the cost, weight, and durability of your jewelry are all tied to the manufacturing technique and the metal style you select.
For gold jewelry pieces, there are many different methods you can use to bring your designs to life. Here, we examine a few different techniques and evaluate the pros and cons to help you understand which is the best option for your jewelry.
First developed in France in the 1700s, gold vermeil is a striking technique that has been used for centuries thanks to its durability and beauty. Unlike gold-plated designs, vermeil is more strictly regulated in the United States and must be created using a specific process. Making vermeil jewelry involves coating a sterling silver base design with a layer of gold—which gives it the look and feel of a piece of solid gold jewelry without the expense.
More affordable than its solid counterpart, gold vermeil designs must have a .925 sterling silver solid base. The silver design is then plated with a thick layer of gold ranging from 14 to 24 karats—and in order to be considered vermeil, the gold plating must be at least 0.0025 millimeters thick.
The pricing of vermeil designs can vary depending on the thickness and karat of the gold coating that is used. However, it tends to be more expensive than gold-plated jewelry because of the more rigorous standards and higher quality materials that are used in production—and though more expensive, final vermeil design is also of a higher quality. On the other hand, vermeil designs are typically more affordable than the solid gold alternative because less gold is used in their production.
Of any of the above mentioned materials, solid gold results in the longest-lasting and highest-quality pieces. Though there are many different techniques to create solid gold jewelry, there are a few common manufacturing or finishing processes including 3d modeling, 3d printing, casting, and polishing.
When casting gold jewelry, the first step is to create a three-dimensional CAD model that is then printed in plastic or wax. This printed piece is then placed inside a flask—a metal container that is then filled with investment—which is placed into the oven. The printed plastic or wax piece melts and leaves empty space for the molten gold. The gold is melted—and sometimes mixed with other metals like silver or copper to make an alloy—and then poured into the mold. After the metal cools, it is removed from the mold, cleaned, polished, and assembled to produce the final solid gold design.
Once the design has been finished, there are many different techniques that can be used to embellish or add texture to the jewelry. Decorative hammering, laser engraving, embossing, and gems can all be added to the jewelry to enhance the overall look and design—or you can let the gold stand on its own to make a shining statement. Whatever you choose for finishes, one fact remains the same: the solid gold base creates a piece of jewelry that is undoubtedly durable, valuable, and above all, functional and beautiful.
Gold plating is a common approach for creating more affordable jewelry designs. In the gold plating process, a metal base is coated in a thin layer of gold for a gold-colored finish. Unlike vermeil, however, there are no standards or regulations around the gold plating process, which means that the quality varies greatly between designs and is often inconsistent from piece to piece.
Gold-plated designs tend to have either steel or brass bases that are quickly dipped in a thin, gold coating. Because the gold coating is thin, it wears off easily and exposes the base metal underneath. This can cause visible wear and tear to the jewelry and can also cause allergic reactions for the wearer.
Because of the lower quality base materials and the lesser quantity of gold used, gold plating is a less expensive alternative to gold vermeil or solid gold designs. That means that gold-plated jewelry is almost always more affordable for the wearer—however, the quality and longevity are significantly decreased compared to the other techniques. Because gold plating doesn’t maintain the integrity of jewelry designs, we don’t recommend this technique to our customers and recommend opting for higher quality materials and production processes.
Manufacturing Gold Jewelry Designs with Riva Precision
At Riva Precision, we provide a vertically-integrated product development and manufacturing solutions to make your design vision a reality. We’ve invested in the latest technology, approach problem-solving from creative angles, and have an arsenal of talented craftsmen that help us create beautiful and functional designs. Whether you choose solid gold, vermeil, platinum or silver, we are here to help you make it happen. We are committed to our environment, so we use 100% recycled metals in all of our production.
We are a one-stop-shop that manages the full process, from CAD models to 3D printing, from chain making to CNC machining. All of our manufacturing is located in-house at our 37,000 SF facilities at the Brooklyn Army Terminal—manufacturing in New York holds us to the highest degree of transparency and accountability, and we encourage our clients to visit our factory to see the artistry behind our manufacturing craft. Whether you’ve decided on solid gold, vermeil, or another precious metal for your designs, we will bring your pieces from design to delivery without compromise.
Interested in learning more about our gold jewelry manufacturing capabilities? Get in touch.